Jefferson's Sons

Jefferson's Sons

Downloadable Audiobook - 2011
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A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson's life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings.
Publisher: New York : Listening Library, 2011
ISBN: 9780307942340
Additional Contributors: Ojo, Adenrele
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Apr 22, 2013

A truly complicated yet worthy read for young readers that explores a controversial and ironic figure in our country's history, Thomas Jefferson. My children and I were completely engaged and several scenes in the novel sparked thoughtful conversation. I love the imaginative plot elements Bradley created to fit the holes that the actual history cannot address. Well done.

sheilahamanaka Dec 07, 2011

"Jefferson's Sons" may be difficult reading for those who idealize the "Founding Fathers". I praise Bradley for dealing with the topic, but I think she doesn't go far enough. For starters, she never mentions Jefferson's racism - he believed Black people were inferior. He owned 700 Africans in the course of his lifetime and thought nothing of giving 10 or 12 year olds away as presents (see ). Jefferson's rape of Sally Hemings, a child, is glossed over by Bradley. The fact that rape was common practice on the part of slave owners, as were the brutal beatings which Jefferson ordered, does not make it less of a crime. Writers of historical fiction have greater leeway, but not less responsibility, than historians. Though bloody whippings are seen through the eyes of Sally and her children, Bradley spares the reader any vision of the daily lives or inner feelings of the field hands who are taking the beatings - the uglier side of oppression which led to hundreds of slave rebellions, none of which are mentioned by the author. Such revolts would have been on the minds and tongues of whites and Africans: in 1800 there were 16,439 people living in Albermarle County, Virginia, the location of Jefferson's plantation. Of these, 7,436 were enslaved - that's an astounding 45 percent. In 1800 a rebellion was quashed in Virginia, and 26 slaves were hung. In stead, Bradley paints an at times almost wholesome picture of life in and around Monticello. Similarly, Bradley omits any mention of Native Americans who were victims of Jefferson's genocidal policies (and who often aided escaped slaves). Bradley chooses to write a scene in which one of Jefferson's sons day dreams about what it must be like to be Lewis or Clark, (who were sent out West as point men for Jefferson's expansionist plan). A better book for young readers is Howard Zinn's "A Young People's History of the United States"


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